After two years of failure, a group of state senators is charting a different course to legal sports betting in Georgia. Rather than lumping sports betting in with an effort to legalize land-based casinos via a constitutional amendment, the group is proposing a standalone sports betting bill run through the Georgia Lottery.
The theory is that the Lottery only needs legislative authorization to offer sports betting, not a constitutional amendment.
Each of those states operates sports betting through their state-run lottery. And this would not require a ballot question; only legislative authorization. The state-lottery exception for sports betting may represent the path of least resistance for Georgia lawmakers.
The bill (SB 57) will likely have competition from the supporters of a comprehensive bill to legalize casino gambling and sports betting in the Peach State via a constitutional amendment.
That wouldn’t be possible until the November 2024 ballot, but supporters will likely argue against the standalone bill, particularly if it undermines efforts to bring land-based casinos to the state.
The Nuts and Bolts of SB 57
SB 57 would create two categories of licenses:
- Type 1 – Mobile sports betting licenses. No less than nine and no more than 18 will be made available.
- Type 2 – Retail sports betting licenses. No less than five and no more than 10 will be made available.
Georgia will set aside nine Type 1 licenses for in-state professional sports teams, the PGA, and select venues, like Augusta National (The Masters) and Atlanta Motor Speedway (NASCAR).
The professional sports teams in the state include:
- Atlanta Hawks
- Atlanta Falcons
- Atlanta Braves
- Atlanta United FC
Retail licenses cost $100,000 annually. Mobile licenses come with a far heftier $1 million annual fee.
The state would tax sports betting at 20%. Operators can deduct the federal excise tax from their taxable revenue but cannot deduct promotional credits.
SB 57 vs. a Constitutional Amendment
A 2022 bill to place a constitutional amendment legalizing casinos, sports betting, and horse racing on the November ballot failed to make it out of committee.
Assuming there is enough legislative support for sports betting, a standalone bill is a logical choice. However, that route has complications.
The argument is that Georgia doesn’t need to pass a constitutional amendment to legalize sports betting if it is run through the state lottery. That point could easily face a legal challenge, but even before that, these semantic games could be off-putting to some lawmakers.
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